Before we dive into the details of this delectable dish, a memory and a brief discussion about crust is in order. To skip to the recipe, scroll down.
When my grandma moved to California, she left behind her Italian identity and embodied the American housewife. She adopted the American diet of the 1960’s: meatloaf, Jello salad in molds, lemon meringue pie and pigs-in-a-blanket.
Yet, as much as we try to detach from our tender innocence, we bring our childhood soul into adulthood. In retrospect, I could always sense Nana’s Italian nature. The big family meals around her dining room table and her stories of growing up in Boston’s Little Italy always gave her away. She left traces of Italy in my DNA and in my heart.
During hours spent in her kitchen, the memories I cherish the most are making apple pie. The smell of pies baking always brings me right back to her side. She taught me how to make a killer pie crust, and the ability to make pie crust from scratch carried a sense of pride in those days. Although I consider myself to be a liberated woman, I don’t care what anyone says; serving a freshly baked apple pie and hearing the oohs and ahhs, fills me with joy and a flush of pride.
What is the difference between a pie, tart, galette or crostata? All are made with a crust with a sweet or savory filling. The pie is made in a pie pan while the tart is made in a tart pan, thus providing the signature shapes. Galettes are more free-form, and crostatas are the Italian version.
The crusts for any of these are as varied as one’s imagination. Remember the graham-cracker crust? I have tasted some interesting variations made from almond flour to pistachios.
Fast forward to 2019, and my crust repertoire has expanded to include galettes, tarts and crostatas. Thanks to Nana’s foundation with all things flour and butter, I have the confidence to create and experiment whether sweet or savory.
Thus, I give you the Potato and Cheese Tart, a dish typical of Naples. The smokey flavor of the Provolone, and heartiness of the potatoes makes this a full-flavored dish. The best part is the potato crust…no flour.
Use Russet type potatoes. Stay away from Yukon Gold or other yellow creamy types as they absorb too much water and don’t hold up.
Just a few simple ingredients. (Note: no flour!) These little sweet peppers roast up well.
First, smooth half of the potato mixture on bottom of tart pan then sprinkle on the toppings.
Next, using a fork, spread the rest of the potato mixture on top of filling and dot with butter. Sprinkle a bit of the herb blend on top. Bake and serve hot.
Potato and Cheese Crostata
Gluten and grain free, vegetarian savory tart for brunch or light breakfast.
- 3 lbs potatoes (Russet or similar)
- 1/4 lb (1 stick) butter (reserve 1 Tablespoon for top)
- 6 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/2 cup milk (can substitute almond milk)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 10 – 12 small sweet peppers or 2 bell peppers, any color
- 6 oz. mozzarella, cut in small cubes
- 4 oz. smoked Provolone, cut in small cubes
- Herb blend: 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme
- salt and pepper to taste Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Filling: Mix potatoes, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, milk, and pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix well.
- Spread half of the potato mixture on the bottom of a greased 11-inch tart pan. Broadcast the mozzarella, Provolone and peppers all around. Sprinkle the herb blend, leaving a pinch or two for the topping.
- Using the back of a fork, spread the remaining potato mixture over the top of the filling. Dot with butter and sprinkle remaining herb blend.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until the top is a nice brown color. This crostata can be served hot or cold, but it is best straight from the oven when the cheese is hot and melty.
Prep the Potatoes and Peppers
Potatoes: Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes. To test for doneness, lift a potato out of the water with a slotted spoon and insert a toothpick into the center. If the toothpick goes all the way to the center easily, it is done. If the toothpick hits a hard center, cook for another 5 minutes and test again. When potatoes are done, drain them. When cool enough to touch, remove the skins and put through a food mill or potato ricer into a bowl. In a pinch, use a potato masher. The potatoes should be crumbly like rice but not fully mashed. Peppers: Use either raw or roasted sweet peppers. If using raw, simply cut into 1/2- inch chunks. To roast, place whole peppers under the broiler for about 5 minutes per side (broiler temperatures vary, so keep a close watch as the peppers cook). Once the skin begins to char, turn pepper over. Continue turning and cooking until the pepper is charred all the way around. Remove from oven, and when peppers are cool enough to touch, peel off the skin, cut in half and remove seeds and stem. Cut into 1/2 inch chunks.
Buon appetito! Enjoy this wonderful meal.